Like many small businesses, you probably rely on referrals. Congratulations on being so great at what you do! Referrals are an excellent source of new business and very little effort goes into landing it as they usually come from a trusted source.
However, referrals should only be a portion of where your new business comes from. In fact, surviving on only referrals will not help you seek out new markets or audiences and will not grow your business. Yes, you may survive but is survival all you want?
If you want more (like growth), there are a few things you should either look into or start doing. I’ve divided it into online and offline activities:
- Social Media followers & connections
- Content creation
- Online event
- Live event
While this is a big, chewy list you will only pick one or two of these to start with. It’s important not to jump around too much with marketing as it’s the continued action that gets the best results. Your choice will depend on who you are trying to market to, what your offering is, and what your budget is. By answering these questions some of these will automatically be crossed off and others will seem more applicable.
TIP: make sure you are using the same messaging and targeting the same audience. If you are trying to market to two or more audiences then your budget grows too. If you sliver your budget to accommodate multiple audiences you will also sliver its effectiveness. Instead, choose to target your primary audience and run an effective campaign (and grow the business to increase the budget and allow you to market to two audiences).
Here we go in more detail on each one:
This is a long game and needs to be continuously done. It is detailed and monotonous but can lead to wonderful organic traffic. SEO is pointless if the traffic is being led to a poor site with no CTA so make sure those things are inline too. You can do some of this yourself by adding meta tags, etc. and there are a few plugins you can use on your site to help as well. But the best SEO is long form content that is accurate and authoritative. Don’t forget your visuals too! [This is an easy one to target to different audiences depending upon the content]
Online ads are a very quick way to direct new traffic to a landing page or website. Again, make sure you’re ready to receive them. Either your ads are effective and you’re landing customers as a result or the ads are ineffective and should be changed up. The $$ will stay the same. You may get a better cost per click here and there but you will always be investing your budget into ads and you should look at a monthly budget of at least $1K. You can shave a few dollars here and there and I’d recommend trying it yourself before you outsource so you understand a bit about what they’re doing and how well they’re doing it. It can become incredibly complicated.
Social Media followers & connections
The level playing field is no more! Yes, you can join for free and start posting but without a plan it’s just spaghetti on the wall (seeing what sticks). Planning and implementing an effective social media campaign takes a bit of time and some good design. You can use programs like Canva to create your posts and programs like Hootsuite or SproutSocial to help you plan and scedule (and sometimes track); however, it must come from a place that has purpose. See last week’s post around the ROI of social media to read more around that. You social media plan may also include content or inbound marketing as well as ads to round out a campaign. The ‘connections’ piece comes from building advocates and generating reach through your followers.
Creating regular, new content can help with SEO and gives you a reason to reach out to new audiences. Again, you should have a content plan that aligns your offerings and your social media so you have a united front. Content can be just about anything but each has their drawbacks. Blogging is cheap but many find writing tedious. Podcasting requires equipment and take time to upload, edit, etc. Video – same as podcasting PLUS you have to think about the visuals (you, location, background). Other content could be visuals such as images, infographics, charts, etc. that support whatever message you are promoting. To use content as a marketing strategy you need to focus on your messaging, keywords and probably use additional pieces to help promote e.g. social media or online ads [You can target multiple audiences here too].
Not for the faint of heart. Building up your public relations can take time. Make sure your website is good and that you have areas of expertise you can speak to. You can do your own press releases if you have something to share and there are free sites where you can upload them, but otherwise, I’d recommend hiring a PR firm to get you out into the media. If that’s out of your reach you can try HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and pitch your stories there. The results are questionable but you can sometimes strike gold. Other options would be to contact reporters directly but they get inundated so you may not get seen or acknowledged. Press is an amazing way to gain immediate authority in your field and it can validate your expertise to any prospects sitting on the fence. It also has long-term impact as you may be called on again if you do well. But getting into the game can be time-consuming if you’re just starting and have no existing contacts.
These are wonderful ways to build an email list and attract new prospects especially if you pair this with online ads. Hosting a webinar, challenge or other online event gets prospects in front of you for dedicated time. What you do with that time depends upon you. However, the opportunity to sell products or book spots as a direct result gives you an immediate ROI. Plus, you have the chance to do a follow-up. This can take some planning depending on what you’re doing as the success is in the details. This also works well in tandem with other areas like content marketing, social media and ads.
These can be hit or miss. Sending out your blog post and calling it a “newsletter” is a mistake. Make sure you have enough regular content to support starting a newsletter. This should be branded and delivered using a reliable email platform. There are many to choose from (MailChimp, Active Campaign, ConstantContact, etc.) at varying price points starting at free. Always test your newsletter email, and put yourself on the list to receive it when you actually send it out. I’d recommend adding a bonus just for subscribers when they sign up as well as something exclusive in each issue.
BONUS: Automations are a staple in today’s small business. Automating an email campaign or follow-up emails can help you build relationships while not actually spending time sending out individual emails. It’s a no-brainer for many businesses. Integrating automations into your website and marketing can be an effeciant way to multi-task and handle more than one prospect at a time. This is more of a tool than a tactic, hence the ‘bonus’.
Join a group for regular networking but also attend conferences or other events to get practice at talking about your business. Not everyone wants a sales pitch upon a handshake. And not everyone uses business cards now. Learning how to make connections in person can be a bit of trial and error so if this is new then start at smaller events and get some practice. Listen to how others do it. I got great advice early on and it was something like this: let them ask what you do and in response tell them briefly. If they ask a follow-up question then give them more or follow up with a client story that gives a clear example of the outcome you give. Sometimes people only ask to be polite so waiting for the follow-up questions means you don’t waste your time.
Despite what some say, public speaking is learned not a born-with talent. True some are better than others but that has a lot to do with any training or feedback as well as practice and experience. Start paying attention to the presentations and speeches you’ve enjoyed and make notes around: length, structure, opening/closing, demeanor, body language. There are many free videos and blogs posts around public speaking to help you with overcoming any obstacles. Then just jump in! Reach out to any meetups or small events that would be interested in your content and pitch your presentation. It’s helpful to have at least 2 presentations ready to go that you can pitch and practice.
TIP: Do not rely on PowerPoint slides. Always build out your talking points first – then look at crafting visual support (if necessary). If you’re already speaking and doing well – BRAVO! Now you need to connect those engagements to sales unless you’re working at speaking itself as a revenue stream e.g. professional speaker.
If you sell a product(s) this should be a priority in your annual marketing. Get yourself on the list of vendors at any market that has your target audience. Then try a couple in an audience you’re hoping to break into. Invest in online payment processing system like Square and make sure you can give receipts on-site. You should also be asking them to join mailing list so you can keep in touch. Make sure you have a table that is visually interesting (lots of product stands at differing heights plus a few props) and make samples available to help attract people. Have lots of cards or brochures and encourage people to visit the website. Track each market and what you invested (product, labour, fees, sales, email list subscriptions, etc.) so you can decide to do it again. Do your part and promote the market on your social media feed too!
This usually blends online and offline but it’s the offline presence that can lead to better results. As a sponsor, make sure you attend the event and promote it widely. If you have a booth or table then invest in it and make it worthwhile for people to come by e.g. freebie, discount, expert help, access to something or someone, a new product demo, etc. Just standing there is the best way to scare people off. And PLEASE don’t just sit in a chair behind a table. Attempt engaging passers by with some SWAG or free trial. At the very least stand up and smile. Don’t look like you’re waiting, but look available. It’s a fine line but it’s super important. You’ve invested in the event so make sure you don’t leave money on the table by sitting back and letting it pass by.
Physical ads or experiential marketing can be incredibly powerful if done with a plan. For this, you may wish to engage an agency. But for a smaller budget look into transit ads, association (that match your target audience) publication ads, local or community bulletins – and even sometimes church publications (if it works for you).
Hosting your own live event is a great way to smash through the ceiling of being unknown. You have total control over the entire event which comes with both risk and reward. Again, there are many professional event organizers that I recommend you look into if you’re thinking of a conference or large scale event. For smaller events there are several things to consider: location, food/catering, alcohol(?), speakers, seating, tickets/RSVPs, day-of staff, promotion, promotion budget, etc.
TIP: The single most important key is to know your target audience. Know their pain points, know their wants and needs, and make sure your offer is a solution that resonates.
The above list gives you a good starting point for your targeted marketing choices. Do not look at this as an exhaustive list of your list but rather a jumping off point. This should get you thinking about how you’re going to reach out to your target market. Good luck!
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